Aliso Viejo, Calif. – The sixth annual Crystal Apple Awards were held Thursday, March 20th at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in Aliso Viejo. This unique community event honors teachers from four local high schools (Aliso Niguel, Dana Hills, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Hills). Two teachers from each high school were chosen to receive Crystal Apples after being nominated by their students. Community members, civic leaders, school board members, and school leaders came together to see each deserving teacher receive their award.
Students nominate teachers who have inspired and motivated them by filling out a nomination form and writing a short essay. More than 700 nominations were received for this year’s awards. The teachers with the most nominations were then selected from each high school, and the students whose nominations were most memorable were selected to introduce their teacher and award the Crystal Apple.
In attendance were the principals from all four high schools; Bills Hinds (Laguna Hills High School), Deni Christensen (Aliso Niguel High School), Dr. Joshua Porter (Dana Hills High School) and Jason Alleman (Laguna Beach High School). Other distinguished guests included Laguna Niguel Mayor John Mark Jennings, along with City Council members Elaine Gennaway and Sandy Rains; Vice President Dr. Edward Wong and Amanda Morrell from the Saddleback Valley Unified School District; Assistant Superintendent Alysia Odipo from the Laguna Beach Unified School District; and Amy Hanacek from the Capistrano Unified School District.
After some inspiring words from President Matt Miller, the evening ended with two uplifting numbers from the Dana Hills choir, led by Ray Medina. Apple pie was served following the program, and guests mingled and congratulated the winning teachers.
Here are the 2019 Crystal Apple Award Winners:
Somer Selway grew up in Ogden, Utah and first learned about ceramics when she was a student at Capo High School. She received her BFA in Art and then went on to receive a Masters in Education. She has been teaching at Laguna Beach High School for six years. Bella Fonk first took Ms. Selway’s Ceramics class as a sophomore, where she saw the way Ms. Selway cares about each of her students. One student remarked, “Ms. Selway has impacted each of our lives inside and outside the classroom. She assures me how much faith she has in my ability. Not only does she believe in me, but she makes me believe in myself.”
Valorie Quigley was raised in Overland Park, Kansas where she was inspired by a high school teacher to go on to teach Math. She attended the University of Kansas where she received a Masters in Mathematics Education and has taught at Laguna Beach High School for the last 24 years. Molly Cohn nominated Mrs. Quigley after taking AP Calculus. She said. “Thank you for believing in me during times even I didn’t. Your positivity and teaching changed me as not only a student, but also as a person. I will be forever grateful for the impact you have made on my life.”
Jake Schwartzberg is originally from Tucson, Arizona. After attending the University of Arizona, he decided to become a teacher, and has taught Math at Dana Hills High School for the past 17 years. Two years ago, he created the Coming Together for Children in Need Foundation (CTCN) which raises funds for the special needs program at Dana Hills. He was nominated by senior Emily Burrows who said, “I think the thing that really sets Mr. Schwartzberg apart from other teachers is his enthusiasm and passion in everything he does. He always makes an effort to know his students and, in return, we get to know him. His dedication towards bettering the Dana Hills’ special needs program is evident through the long hours of hard work he pours into advocating and fundraising for his foundation.”
Rebecca Reid grew up in New Jersey and California and attended San Diego State University. She has been teaching Biology at Dana Hills for 15 years. Mrs. Reid decided to go into teaching after her Marine Ecology teacher Mr. Stoppa inspired her to want to help students see how fun science can be. She was nominated for a Crystal Apple by Evie Wettengel, who said, “Mrs. Reid is one of my favorite teachers I’ve ever had. She is so patient with all of our many, sometimes unnecessary questions, and never fails to put a smile on my face with her exciting stories, jokes, and ugly Christmas sweaters.”
Cyndi Wright was raised in Laguna Beach, California and graduated from Laguna Beach High School. She went to college at UCLA and earned her Masters in Psychology at Pepperdine University. She has been teaching for over 30 years, working at Aliso Niguel High School for the past 16 years. Mrs. Wright was nominated by senior Audrey McKeon, who commented, “The influence of a good teacher makes all the difference and that is 100% true when it comes to Mrs. Wright. She understands and connects with the students she teaches, but she doesn’t just teach students, she makes you feel like she is giving advice to friends. She makes everyone feel loved, appreciated and all while teaching arguably the most interesting class on campus.
Gregory Burger is originally from Mission Viejo, California. Mr. Burger went to college at Humboldt State University, and received his teaching credential at Cal State Fullerton. His goal is to give students an opportunity to have their own opinions and an ability to think for themselves. He has been teaching English for the last four years at Aliso Niguel. Sophomore Emily Ellsworth said, “I nominated Mr. Burger for a Crystal Apple Award because he goes out of his way to make sure his students understand what is being taught and he helps each of us to do our very best. He has a good rapport with teenagers because he treats us with respect, relates to us, and develops bonds with each of us.”
Alison Leigber grew up in a military family, so she has lived in many different places. Mrs. Liegber is truly a Hawk at heart; she attended Laguna Hills High School as a student, and even met her husband there when she was a freshman. After attending college at UCLA, she taught for six years and then took 17 years off to raise her three sons, returning to LHHS last year. Mrs. Leigber was nominated by Mackenzie Conwell who commented, “She taught me how to simplify my life while teaching transcendentalism. She taught me how to appreciate every moment as it is passing while reading Our Town. She made me realize that it is best to say things as they are and not to sugar coat the truth while analyzing Spoon River Anthology. I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done to help me live a happier and more fulfilling life.”
Lisa Palmstrom grew up in Laguna Hills and attended college at Cal State Fullerton. She has been teaching for 7 years. Mrs. Palmstrom tells her students that her goal is to be genuine and to use what she has learned from her own challenges and experiences to help her students succeed. She was nominated by student Amanda Goda who said, “High school can be a tough place, but Mrs. Palmstrom’s classroom feels welcoming and safe. She lets us express ourselves and our opinion is valued. Whether we are debating the article of the week or we get side tracked in discussing the latest “hot” issue, one can be assured that their voice is heard and their opinions valued.”
Congratulations to all the 2019 Crystal Apple Award Winners!